Howdy! Here are some papers. Some are published; some under submission; and some less well-baked yet. I'm definitely interested in any comments or questions; please feel free to email me
. (For a complete list of publications, see my CV
- This paper presents and motivates a particular logical and philosophical approach to truth and semantic paradox. The approach in question begins from bilateralism: the thesis that constraints on assertion and denial are primary in determining meaning, and rehearses how bilateralism gives rise to classical logic and classical model theory. It is then extended to truth, showing how bilateralism naturally gives rise to a nontransitive extension of classical logic with a fully transparent truth predicate. The distinction between strict and tolerant forms of assertion and denial is introduced, and the target theory is favorably compared to its relatives.
- Structures and circumstances (forthcoming in Synthese)
- Many philosophers agree that sets of possible worlds can't be the semantic values of clauses (propositions); they simply don't draw enough distinctions. How, then, should we draw the additional distinctions we need? In this paper, I compare two broad types of solution: the circumstantialist and the structuralist. The circumstantialist takes propositions to be sets of truth-supporting circumstances, but acknowledges more circumstances than simply possible worlds. The structuralist, on the other hand, takes propositions to have some sort of syntactic structure, inherited from the syntax of the language in question. I argue that the structuralist cannot fully address the initial problem without undermining the use of that problem as a motivation for structuralism. I go on to argue that no similar objection applies to circumstantialism.
- Conservatively extending classical logic with transparent truth (forthcoming in the Review of Symbolic Logic)
- This paper shows how to conservatively extend classical logic with a transparent truth predicate, in the face of the paradoxes that arise as a consequence. All classical inferences are preserved, and indeed extended to the full (truth-involving) vocabulary. However, not all classical meta-inferences are preserved; in particular, the resulting logical system is nontransitive. Some limits on this nontransitivity are adumbrated, and two proof systems are presented and shown to be sound and complete. (One proof system allows for Cut-elimination, but the other does not.)
- Explaining the abstract/concrete paradoxes in moral psychology: The NBAR hypothesis (with Eric Mandelbaum) (forthcoming in Review of Philosophy and Psychology)
- A number of experiments in moral psychology seem to show that the specificity with which a situation is described affects participants' judgments about how responsible characters in that situation are. Previous explanations proposed for this phenomenon have either taken it to be a purely affective response, or else supposed that participants process specific information in a different way from abstract information. In this paper, we present a new hypothesis: that participants have a tacit belief that when a Norm is Broken, an Agent is Responsible (NBAR). We show that the NBAR hypothesis explains the extant abstract/concrete paradoxes, and that it sees these paradoxes as part of a larger pattern. We also outline some further predictions made by the NBAR hypothesis, for future research.
- Negation, denial, and rejection (Philosophy Compass 6(9):622-629, 2011)
- At least since Frege and Geach, there has been some
consensus about the relation between negation, the speech act of denial,
and the attitude of rejection: a denial, the consensus has had it, is
the assertion of a negation, and a rejection is a belief in a negation.
Recently, though, there have been notable deviations from this orthodox
view. Rejectivists have maintained that negation is to be explained in
terms of denial or rejection, rather than vice versa. Some other
theorists have maintained that negation is a separate phenomenon from
denial, and that neither is to be explained in terms of the other. In
this paper, I present and consider these heterodox theories of the
relation between negation, denial, and rejection.
- Nonclassical theories of truth (with Jc Beall) (forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Truth)
- This chapter gives a brief overview of theories of truth that address the paradoxes through adopting nonclassical logics. We divide such theories into two camps: operational and substructural. Operational approaches are nonclassical in their theories of certain vocabulary, particularly negation and the conditional; substructural approaches, on the other hand, work by restricting certain familiar structural rules, particularly contraction or cut.
the ternary relation and conditionality (with Jc Beall, Ross Brady,
Michael Dunn, Allen Hazen, Edwin Mares, Robert K. Meyer, Graham Priest,
Greg Restall, John Slaney, Richard Sylvan (formerly Routley)) (Journal of Philosophical Logic 41(3):595-612)
paper presents a number (probably between one and four) of
philosophical understandings of the ternary relation that figures
prominently in the Routley-Meyer model theory for relevant logics. We
argue that, properly understood, this model theory can be used to
provide an applied, rather than merely algebraic, semantics for
- Tolerant, classical, strict (with Pablo Cobreros, Paul Egré, Robert van Rooij) (Journal of Philosophical Logic 41(2):347-385)
- In this paper we investigate a semantics for first-order logic originally proposed by van Rooij to account for the idea that vague predicates are tolerant, that is, for the principle that if x is P, then y should be P whenever y is similar enough to x. The semantics, which makes use of indi.erence relations to model similarity, rests on the interaction of three notions of truth: the classical notion, and two dual notions simultaneously de.ned in terms of it, which we call tolerant truth and strict truth. We characterize the space of consequence relations de.nable in terms of those and discuss the kind of solution this gives to the sorites paradox. We discuss some applications of the framework to the pragmatics and psycholinguistics of vague predicates, in particular regarding judgments about borderline cases.
- Contradictions at the borders (in Vagueness in Communication, Springer 2011)
- What do ordinary speakers say when confronted with apparent contradictions in a borderline case of vagueness? (eg "It's both near and not near" when it's a borderline case of "near") This paper presents a new experimental finding: speakers are relatively happy with such apparent contradictions. It then goes on to consider several possible explanations for this happiness, concluding that two (dialetheism and a certain variety of contextualism) are better positioned to account for the data than are many others.
- Inconstancy and inconsistency (in Reasoning Under Vagueness, College Publications)
- Some theories of vagueness take it to be a species of inconstancy, or shiftiness; others take vagueness to be a species of inconsistency, giving rise to true contradictions. Both sorts of view are well-positioned to explain the sort of speaker responses reported in "Contradictions at the borders" above: that speakers will agree to sentences with the forms of contradictions in borderline cases. In this paper, I consider these two sorts of views from the point of view of a Kaplanian model theory. I prove that, without further specification, inconstancy views and inconsistency views make completely equivalent predictions about speaker behavior, and develop the implications of this for theories of context.
Selected papers under submission
- Sorting out the sorites (forthcoming in Paraconsistency: Logic and Applications, Springer)
- A certain picture of how vague language works is often
taken to motivate supervaluationism (or subvaluationism) about
vagueness. In this paper, I argue that the picture in question, more
properly understood, instead motivates a truth-functional approach to
vagueness, one involving either Strong Kleene logic or Priest's LP---and
that LP is the better choice here. It is often claimed that such
3-valued approaches cannot accommodate higher-order vagueness. I show
that this is mistaken, that higher-order vagueness poses no new
difficulties for such an approach. I then discuss the application of the
LP picture to the sorites paradox.
- Vagueness as confusion
- This paper sketches an understanding of confusion and vagueness according to which the latter is a special kind of the former. First, I explore some existing theories of confusion, and sketch a particular understanding of confusion. Then, I go on to argue that vague concepts fit directly into this understanding. This picture of vagueness is related, but not identical, to a number of existing accounts.
- Revising up
- This paper defends classical logic against a familiar line of attack: the line that works from intuitively valid principles governing truth or vague predicates, and argues that such principles are incompatible with classical logic. I mount the defense by showing that classical logic is in fact compatible with a fully transparent truth predicate, even in the presence of paradoxical sentences like the liar, and with fully tolerant vague predicates, even in the presence of sorites sequences. Thus, classical logic can be strengthened by adding principles of transparency and tolerance without running into trouble.
- Reaching transparent truth (with Pablo Cobreros, Paul Égré, Robert van Rooij)
- This paper presents and defends a way to add a transparent truth predicate to classical logic, such that T<A> and A are everywhere intersubstitutable, where all T-biconditionals hold, and where truth can be made compositional. A key feature of our framework, called STT (for Strict-Tolerant Truth), is that it supports a nontransitive relation of consequence. At the same time, it can be seen that the only failures of transitivity STT allows for arise in paradoxical cases.
- At first blush, dialetheists (who assert some contradictions) and paracompletists (who deny some instances of excluded middle) seem to have trouble expressing disagreement: a dialetheist might assert the negation of a proposition without disagreeing with it, and a paracompletist might disagree with a proposition without being willing to assert its negation. This problem is typically addressed by appealing to the difference between denial and assertion of negation. This paper examines the account of denial required to make such a move, arguing that no proper account of denial can be given unless there is some operation on content corresponding to denial in a certain way. This operation, though, cannot be admitted to standard dialetheist or paracomplete theories, on pain of revenge paradox. Some upshots of this for the initial disagreement problem are considered.
- Some approaches to Curry paradox handle it by invoking so-called "non-normal worlds": worlds at which the laws of logic fail. We present a new version of Curry paradox which seems to push on these approaches, by parity of reasoning, postulation of non-normal times: times, including times at the actual world, at which the laws of logic fail.
- Weak negations and neighborhood semantics
- Downward-entailing operators are important in the study of many linguistic phenomena, but they have not received a great deal of exploration from the point of view of philosophical logic. Instead, attention has tended to focus on operators that can be given a relational semantics a la Kripke. In this paper, I adapt neighborhood semantics for modal logics to study downward-entailing operators in their full generality, providing a map of various downward-entailing operators that subsumes the various "kites of negation" offered by Dunn and Dunn & Zhou. I also develop a bit of the theory of neighborhood algebras, to show that an important relationship holds between the Routley star semantics for negation and so-called Ockham algebras. At the moment, this is still a chapter from my dissertation; I will soon adapt it for independent submission.
- Against structured propositions
- This paper is an earlier version of "Structures and circumstances", listed above. Both the view and the arguments have changed substantially. I think a key line of argument in "Against structured propositions" is wrong, but interestingly wrong, so I keep the paper available.
- Many philosophers agree that sets of possible worlds can't be the semantic values of clauses (propositions); they simply don't draw enough distinctions. How, then, should we draw the additional distinctions we need? In this paper, I compare two broad types of solution: the circumstantialist and the structuralist. The circumstantialist takes propositions to be sets of truth-supporting circumstances, but acknowledges more circumstances than simply possible worlds. The structuralist, on the other hand, takes propositions to have some sort of syntactic structure, inherited from the syntax of the language in question. I argue that the structuralist conception makes two key mistakes: it fails to distinguish some propositions that should be distinguished, and it distinguishes propositions that should be identified. I survey and reject some potential structuralist responses to this argument, and show that the circumstantialist picture of propositions that results has important fallout for the semantics of negation.